Graduate Bulletin


Programs Leading to the Master of Science Degree

General Sequence

  1. Physics (18 credits, minimum): Courses as advised including Phy 519 and Phy 680 for 3 or 6 credits. With departmental approval a thesis for from 4 to 6 credits may be presented in place of or in addition to Phy 680.
  2. Supporting courses (0-12 credits): Courses in mathematics and sciences as advised. Courses in other academic fields with the consent of the advisor.
  3. Satisfactory completion of a major field examination in physics.
  4. Demonstration of proficiency in one of various research skills. The particular skill is chosen by the department's Research Skills Committee. Examples of appropriate skills are: certain foreign languages, computer programming, numerical analysis and technologies such as electronics.
Secondary School Teaching Sequence*
  1. Physics (18 credits, minimum): Courses as advised, including Phy 519 and 680 for from 3 to 6 credits.
  2. Supporting courses (0-6 credits): Courses in mathematics and science as advised.
  3. Education (6 credits): E Phl 601 and 3 additional credits as advised.
  4. Satisfactory completion of a major- field examination in physics.
*Prerequisite preparation: Eligibility for provisional certification in physics is required for admission to this program. Completion of this program will meet the academic requirement for permanent certification.

Combined B.S.-M.S. Program

Qualified undergraduates may apply for admission to the M.S. program and, if accepted, simultaneously work toward completion of the requirements for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. See Combined Baccalaureate- Master's Degree Programs for details.

Program Leading to the Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Students develop their abilities to do independent research and to communicate the results of this research to the world. The skills developed along the way to this Ph.D. can help a person establish a career in physics teaching or research, or in other areas which require extensive knowledge of physics. The program requires at least three years of full-time effort.

Requirements for Admission

In addition to the general University requirements, a strong undergraduate background is needed. Most students admitted to the Ph.D. program have an undergraduate degree in physics or a closely related field. Applicants from other areas may be considered, but they may need to take some undergraduate physics courses to make up for deficiencies.

Program of Study and Research

Study and research programs are flexible, since students enter the Ph.D. program with widely varying backgrounds. A student plans his/her study and research with the help of an advisor.

The basic physics which all Ph.D. students must master are covered in the "core" courses. Core courses are not required, since some who enter the Ph.D. program are already well prepared. The only required courses are Phy 519 (Experimental Techniques in Physics) and three A,B,C-graded "survey" courses. The core courses are Phy 510A,B, 610A,B, 612, 615, 617, and 619. The survey courses are Phy 520, 526, 532, 542, 560, 562, 563, 570A, and "plasma physics" (listed as Phy 784 or as Phy 561). One cannot get survey course credit for both Phy 532 and Phy 562.

The core courses are designed, in part, to help a student pass a comprehensive field exam in physics. This exam is the doorway to research. Normally students finalize decisions about their research topic only after this exam has been passed.

Departmental Examinations

A student must pass:

  1. A written comprehensive field examination in physics.
  2. An oral qualifying examination on a topic related to the student's research.
  3. A final oral examination, which is a defense of the dissertation.
The comprehensive exam is a set of six two-hour exams on classical, advanced classical, statistical, modern, quantum, and advanced quantum physics. Normally, a student must pass five out of six of these exams by the beginning of the sixth semester. Copies of old exams are available in the physics department.

Research Tool Requirement

Each student must demonstrate proficiency in an appropriate research tool. Examples of research tools are a thorough knowledge of either a foreign language, a computer programming language, or electronics.

Full Time Study in Residence

Each student in a doctoral program must engage in full-time study beyond the master's degree or equivalent at the University in at least two sessions after admission to the advanced program. This requirement is designed to insure for each doctoral student a sustained period of intensive intellectual growth. For this purpose a student will enroll in full-time study (12 credits) taken in each of two sessions, or in a regular session and a summer session, not necessarily consecutive, which must be completed satisfactorily, except as indicated here:

  1. Students authorized to register for work on a dissertation may meet this 12 credit per session requirement by satisfactorily completing a minimum of 8 earned course credits and registering for work on the dissertation for load credits that will bring the total to 12 credits for each of two sessions.
  2. Graduate assistants holding a full assistantship may meet the residency requirement by completing one academic year in such a position, including the satisfactory completion of a minimum of 15 registered credits during the year plus satisfactory completion of assigned duties.
Admission to Candidacy

Students must be admitted to candidacy at least one semester before receiving a Ph.D. An application to candidacy is accepted when a student has:

  1. a satisfactory record in course and research work;
  2. completed University residence requirements;
  3. completed the research tool requirement;
  4. passed the qualifying examination.

A student's dissertation is expected to represent a significant and original contribution to physics. The dissertation research must be publicly presented, and approved by the student's research committee.